Exclusive Interview: MOTi on Tiësto, Martin Garrix, and how dance music is changing
“For every show I do, I prepare what I want to play and what direction I can take in my set. I have certain tracks that I want to include in every set, but I do try to make it different each time. Mostly that depends on whether the event is inside or outside, the time, who’s playing before and after me and whether it is a day or night event.”
If ever there were words that could encapsulate MOTi‘s philosophy perfectly, they are surely these. While some stick to their tried and tested formulas, the Dutch producer and DJ sensation prides himself on pushing and creating a diverse array of sounds. Using whatever he has in his arsenal to deliver the most potent response to any given situation, his wide-reaching approach has reaped major rewards. From rampant electro house to rowdy trap, joyous house, big room EDM anthems and electronic pop, the list goes on and his talent seemingly knows no bounds. Flexibility is not an issue. Meticulous planning, dependent on his audience, is.
With a production style that’s crammed with ideas, energy and cutting-edge technique, it’s no wonder that he’s managed to smash everything he’s tried his hands at so far. The fast rising talent first made his mark his on the scene in 2012 when he released ‘Kinky Denise’ with Quintino on Afrojack’s WALL Recordings. Soon Spinnin’ Records were knocking at his door, and before long MOTi was branching out with solo projects and other collaborations. Tiësto signed him to Musical Freedom and they worked together on ‘Back To The Acid’, thus beginning MOTi’s long run of releases on the superstar’s imprint that continues to this day. Spinnin’ Records has been his other main champion, with a slew of hugely successful releases on the mega-label including Martin Garrix collaboration ‘Virus (How About Now)’ which hit #1 on Beatport and #24 on the Billboard Dance Charts. And more recently, he’s joined Don Diablo‘s Hexagon family for the release of ‘Livin’ 4 Ya‘.
But, as we found out when we caught up with MOTi for an exclusive interview, it was fashion, and not music, that was the career path he almost chose:
“I already started DJ-ing and producing during my studies. At first this was just as a hobby, but when I finally produced my first track, a friend of mine pushed me to send it to a big Dutch DJ. At that time there weren’t that many DJ’s/producers as there are now so I got a response quite quickly in which they asked me to send more music, so I did. After I send a few tracks I got offered a spot at his booking agency, and though I still went to school, that’s when the passion for music started taking over. I started missing more and more classes and had to explain myself to my teachers. Luckily one of the teachers had a son who was a touring DJ as well so she understood my position quite well. Thanks to her I got the extra time (2 extra years to be exact) to finish my studies. After that I decided to go for a career in music 100%, not fashion, because that is where my heart was at, probably because I was better at that as well.”
Already a household name, in no small part due to his collaboration on “Virus” with recently crowned #1 DJ in the World 2016, Martin Garrix, MOTi was quick to point out that these kind of polls don’t weigh too heavily on his mind.
“To be honest, I think it would be awesome to make it into a list like that. But the fact that I am not now is definitely not the end of the world, and also I won’t be doing any crazy campaigns stunts for votes. Just like other awards, it is a great recognition of your work. And I see it as a nice pat on the back but it is not a priority…”
Having already released tracks on many labels, MOTi’s recent release was perhaps a slight change in direction, with “Livin’ 4 Ya” released on his fellow countryman Don Diablo’s Hexagon label. And the producer revealed that this style switch was something actually inspired by one of his own remixes.
“I thought it kind of fitted the sound I was trying to create with ‘Turn Me Up‘ and with my remix of Galantis‘ ‘No Money‘. For 2017 I probably will be doing more tracks in this style, mostly remixes I think, but as for the originals I’ve got all kinds of tracks lined up; BPM’s from 95 to 140, full vocal tracks, etc. Also, I have got a few big room tracks scheduled for release!”
For all his success so far, it would be naive to disregard the impact one particular dance music legend has had on him, and Tiësto was one discussion point, and individual, that MOTi was understandably quick to lavish praise on.
“The most important thing I’ve learned from Tiësto is that you should do what feels good. I think that the thing that a lot of producers worry is what the hot genre is at this moment and those kind of things. For me personally, if I start thinking about this too much I start liking what I am doing less and I’m less creative and less likely to create something I feel good about. Of course you can always let yourself be inspired by what is hot at this moment but it should not be the most important factor in the creation process. Also don’t let A&R managers throw you off your game. I’ve had a few tracks that according to A&R managers weren’t good enough for release until I got major support on them from artists like Martin Garrix and Tiësto.”
A seasoned performer of live shows like Electric Daisy Carnival and at Hakkasan in Las Vegas, the Dutchman was keen to point out the gap in differences between American crowds, and those in his native Europe, are now blurring into one more similar group of people.
“At first there were major differences. An example of this is that US crowds wants you to talk to them during sets and the EU crowds wants you to shut up and play your music! (Laughs) But over the years the EU crowd has gotten used to MC-ing DJ’s and the differences kind of faded. Both crowds no want to see a show instead of a DJ turning buttons and they want to feel that you appreciate them by talking to them.”
If flexibility is MOTi’s biggest strength; after all there are few DJ’s who can switch between genre with such chameleon-like ease, then what direction does he feel the future of dance music is headed in?
“I don’t think that the change we are seeing is necessarily BPM related. A few years ago the new big thing in pop music was big room and electro, but now that has turned into tropical house and future bass is also slowly getting more and more popular. I think pop music is kind of hype based and therefore will keep on evolving. I think the key is to find a sound that can be your trademark as a producer in whatever genre that may be. For example, if you can do 4 productions in 4 genres and in every track you can hear that it’s your track, then you’ve found your signature style. At least that is what I’ve been working towards for some time now.”
And with increasing demands placed on producers these days to balance their time between live shows and studio work, this was an area of the industry that MOTi labelled the “most difficult thing in being an artist.”
“You want to make music but then you also want to tour and make some money. If you tour too much you will release less music and that will eventually lead to fewer shows. And then if you don’t tour enough you can’t pay your expenses and you’ll possibly have fans that will forget about you. I find it very difficult to get that balance right. I’ve had times in which I toured so much that I didn’t do any studio work, but then I’ve also taken time off and ended up in a producer block in which I could only create garbage. One thing I did learn over the past years which I’m trying to do right now is to give up an unhealthy lifestyle. When you are healthy when on tour you have so much extra time to work on your music instead of being hungover or sleeping!”
So as a man with his finger on the pulse in the dance music world, who are the stars that MOTi is tipping for global success next?
“In my opinion there are many underrated producers out there, but it’s just that the game has changed. These days it is not just about the music anymore. Music is an important part of it and I think it always will be, but performance, social media, etc. have become such an important part of a career as well that it’s difficult to succeed if you don’t put enough time and effort in those. To still name some people that I really like, I would firstly say Kenneth G. I think he will do some great things in 2017. He has done some big shows with W&W last year and has been back in the studio for some time now. I heard some of the music he has been working on and it really sounds great. It’s a bit bass driven but still has the power that some of the biggest EDM tracks have. If you’re more into techy music then you should check out Mike Mendo. He is getting a lot of support from Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano and Kryder to name a few, and has got a lot of great groovy tracks coming up. If you are into techno you should look into Joey Daniel. He has been around for some time and his sets are amazing, full of energy and 100% on fire. He recently started touring with Marco Carola‘s ‘Music On’ concept. It’s great to see them all doing so well!”
Having released several tracks and remixes over the past few years, more and more artists are actually creating “studio albums” right now, and though MOTi was not entirely convinced by this notion, 2017 is certainly seeming like another huge year for the Dutchman and his fans with many more releases to come!
“I’m not sure whether I’m going to be doing an album, but the plan is to release a single every 6 to 8 weeks. In between I will be releasing big room, EDM, future house kind of tracks and last but definitely not least I’m going to start my MOTi Massive series. It was supposed to be an EP series but I think I’m just going to give the tracks away for free one by one. The series will contain all kind of club driven music for free. Basically bangers in all genres! So every time I finish a banger or DJ tool I use in my sets it will go on the MOTi Massive schedule for free give-away!”
So you heard it here first folks! 2017 means much more MOTi, and judging by how hard he’s been tearing it up in recent years, that is sure to prove great news for everyone!